Race Recap: Notre Dame X-C Invitational

October 5th, 2011 in Articles by 2 Comments

The 2011 Notre Dame Invitational cross country meet – where a number of national powerhouses clashed under inclement weather and over a slow, sloppy course – helped set the stage for what should be an exciting cross country season and raised some questions about expectations at the national level when the NCAAs hit Terre Haute in November (photos at the end of this post).

The invitational is split into two divisions due to its size. The Gold Division, which might too easily be dismissed as the “unseeded” heat, featured a mix of D-I, D-II, and D-III schools and a number of compelling individual and team finishes. The Blue Division functioned as a de facto D-I NCAA Championship tune up, with 6 of the top-25 D-I teams on the men’s side and 5 of the top-25 teams on the women’s side toeing the line.

In the women’s Gold Division, Northwestern University’s Audrey Huth made a bold move to shake D-II powerhouse Grand Valley State’s Monica Kinney (2nd) and Rebecca Winchester (4th) for the win over 5K.

“I made my move at about 800 [meters] to go,” Huth said. “After I turned the corner and didn’t hear anyone yelling anyone else’s name I thought that I had dropped them. The course was very windy and mushy. I was hoping I could draft off someone so I wouldn’t be directly in the wind, but that didn’t end up happening. I thought I ran a pretty smart race, but I was really hoping to run a lot faster time.”

However Grand Valley State – the fourth-ranked D-II school in the nation – edged out Northwestern University and additional D-I opponents Central Michigan and Indiana State to take the women’s Gold Division title.

Matt Walters, of Canada’s Windsor University, was the only male in the Gold Division to dip under 25:00 (24:54) over the 5-mile course, but his win couldn’t help the Lancers top the Grand Valley State men – who at #3 in the nation are arguably even more of a D-II powerhouse than the Grand Valley women. Tyler Emmorey and Anthony Witt went 2-3 to anchor the Grand Valley team’s win over Windsor, North Central College, and Calvin College.

But as exciting as the early races were, they were preludes for the Blue Division contests. The rain stopped (for a while) and the gray skies turned blue as if God Himself wanted a better view when top-25 teams Florida State, Arkansas, New Mexico, Penn State, and Notre Dame kicked off the women’s race.

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Individually, the race was no contest, as Southern Methodist University senior (by way of Norway) Silje Fjortoft led wire-to-wire – opening with a 5:27 first mile through the muck and increasing pace as a cloudburst dumped rain on the field just before the 2-mile mark. Fjortoft finished in 16:54, 8 seconds ahead of Morgan Haws of BYU – but it wasn’t as close as the time would imply. Risper Kimaiyo followed for 3rd place in 17:05, before Amanda Winslow led three Florida State women in the top-10 to lock down the team win with 54 points.

FSU’s dominant win over Arkansas (116 points) and New Mexico (164 points) earned them a #3 ranking in the USTFCCCA D-I national poll when the numbers were announced this week. (Indeed the Seminoles look poised to disrupt previous Faster Than Forty predictions and beat out Virginia as the best women’s team in the ACC conference.)

In the men’s Blue Division race, Henry Lelei of Texas A&M tried to mimic SMU’s Silje Fjortoft with a bold opening gambit. Lelei notched 4:48 for his first mile and opened a 30- to 40-yard gap on the field after the 2-mile mark, but the junior couldn’t hold on (ultimately finishing 8th). BYU’s Miles Batty took the crown in 23:59 – a remarkable time for a muddy trip. He outran Donn Cabral of Princeton (24:00) and Mike Fout of Florida State (24:01) in a dash down the stretch, and the first five finishers (including BYU’s Jared Ward and Butler’s Callum Hawkins) all posted times of 24:04 or better. In fact, the first 56 finishers in the Blue Division managed 25:00 or faster – on a course that had to cost at least 20-25 seconds.

FSU’s Mike Fout, elaborating on the tough conditions, said, “The course was pretty sloppy, but a stretch of mud a maybe 200 meters before the finish was particularly bad. Cabral and Batty put in a strong surge just before that spot and I knew that was smart. I got caught behind them and ran right through the muddy patch. It definitely broke my stride, and kicking against Batty who is the indoor mile champion is tough no matter what. He’s got the wheels I just don’t have (yet) so I should have made a move sooner.

“The wind and periodic rain was less than ideal, but it was the same for everybody so you just have to deal with it. It might mean that the race would be run slower, but you can still compete against the competition.”

Fout also lost a shoe barely 600 meters after the start of the race and spent a great deal of time playing catch up – although he refused to use that as an excuse.

Batty’s BYU squad put all five scorers in the top-20 finishers, easily handling a tough Florida State team and moving to #6 in the USTFCCCA national poll in the process. Princeton finished third, and Stanford finished fourth (although the Cardinal sat All Americans Chris Derrick and Jacob Riley for this contest).

The 56th running of the Notre Dame Invitational was cold, sloppy, and competitive – in short everything you’d expect from a cross country meet – and it should set the stage for some great contests as the 2011 season progresses toward the championships on the calendar. The attached gallery contains some photos we took to capture the event. The slide show (8 images) will start automatically, but you can click ‘stop’ in the nav bar to halt the show and view pictures individually.

 

Rick Miller is the co-founder of Faster Than Forty. You can read more about him (not that you’d want to) here.

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Author: FasterThanForty

2 Comments

Nice piece Rick!

The sloppy field made every heat amazing to watch. There were allot of gritty performances, including a PR by one Morgan Engelhart of UW-Oshkosh.

DIII Nationals this weekend in Oshkosh.

Bryan Cook

10/12/2011

Our congrats to Morgan, of course. BTW D-III Nationals are next month, not this month, I believe…

Rick Miller

10/12/2011

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